Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Red Epidendrum

Not the best shots :-(


Tuesday, August 24, 2010


I'll be off on a hiking vacation for the next week. I should have new posts up by Wed or so.

Monday, August 23, 2010

You Can't Have the Time Back

Stories like this break my heart. As bad as most government regulation and interference is, perhaps the form in which it takes the greatest human toll is through our immigration policy. How many other lives are destroyed by our not opening the borders?

Sunday, August 22, 2010


Gibbons and orangutans are my favorite animals. Here's a clip of a gibbon harassing two tiger cubs. (The narrator calls the gibbon a male, but judging by its color and aggressiveness, I think it's a female.)


Thursday, August 19, 2010

A Welcome Problem

There are so many Objectivists being published that I can't keep up. I'll post links if or as I have time to catch up, but apologies in advance for those I miss. In any case, here's the first, Alex Epstein in the WSJ. Its opener:
Which former president does Barack Obama most resemble? When it comes to handling oil spills, the answer is Richard Nixon. Like our current president, Nixon too presided over a major offshore oil blowout—the three million gallon Santa Barbara spill of 1969. And, like Mr. Obama, Nixon responded by whipping up anti-oil sentiment and passing a sweeping moratorium on drilling.

This parallel is important to keep in mind, because Nixon's reaction helped cause the worst energy crisis in American history. Before the Santa Barbara spill, American oil drillers were working on a variety of major projects off the coast of California and in Alaska that could have provided more than 20% of America's domestic oil production at the time. In Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, for example, oil companies struck in late 1967 what is still the largest oil field in U.S. history.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Who Today is Pro-Business?

Forbes has a nice article by Yaron Brook and Don Watkins. I particularly like this section:
The economic system fully geared to the life of producers is complete, unregulated, laissez-faire capitalism--a total separation of state and economics, where the government protects each individual's inalienable rights, including his rights to property and to freedom of contract and trade, and otherwise "gets the hell out of the way." That's what it means to be pro-business.

By this standard, Barack "At a Certain Point You've Made Enough Money" Obama is obviously anti-business. But many people are under the impression that Obama's critics are pro-business. Nothing could be further from the truth.

One of the myths that arose following the financial crisis was that America pre-Obama was something close to a free market. According to this narrative, anyone who supports the status quo circa 2007 is a champion of capitalism.

But by 2007 the number of federal agencies and commissions riding roughshod over a businessman's rights had already mushroomed to more than 100, including the IRS, SEC, EPA, FTC, FDA, FCC, USDA, FDIC, OHSA. These agencies were enforcing an unprecedented 73,000 pages of regulations, and their budgets had swelled to record levels. This included 2002's draconian Sarbanes-Oxley, passed by the Senate 99-0 and signed into law by the supposedly pro-capitalist President Bush.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

BLC Husky Boy "Romeo" BM/JGP99


Monday, August 16, 2010

The Separation of Ideas and State

My latest editorial is now available at PJM. Please feel free to stop by and leave comments or engage in (courteous) debate, as I think this one may be more controversial than previous pieces. (Plus comments and links encourage the editors to publish future work.)

Here are the opening paragraphs:
What do the following disputes — running the cultural gamut — have in common?

In education: Should creationism or evolution be taught in public schools? In science: Should we form de facto boards of inquisition to maintain the government-funded consensus on global warming? In arts: Should we support “diversity” in the form of the “Piss Christ”? Or should we engage in social engineering by funding art “that would show support for Obama’s domestic agenda”? And in a sad mixture of religion, politics, and science: Should taxpayers continue to support NASA with an annual budget of $19 billion so that it can pursue its new mission to “engage … with dominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science”?

The answer? Each seeks to determine which ideas taxpayers must fund and support. In so doing, each contributes to making modern politics more acrimonious and fractious than ever.
Thanks to TK, Paul Hsieh and Lucy Hugel for valuable editorial feedback on this one.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

An Awakening Electorate

I took this as a bit of good news:
At the same time, three Congressional Republicans defeated in bids for other offices were appropriators who discovered that their determined efforts to deliver the goods were not fully appreciated by voters.

Representative Todd Tiahrt, a Kansas Republican seeking a Senate nomination, and Representative Zach Wamp, a Republican candidate for governor in Tennessee, were the latest committee members to fall in primaries this month. Earlier in the year, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas was battered in the Republican primary for governor for her work on the appropriations panel, an attack that included a video characterizing her as the ‘earmark queen,’ set to Abba’s “Dancing Queen.”

“You know the world is in a different place when bringing home the bacon is no longer a good thing,” said Jennifer Duffy, senior editor at the nonpartisan Cook Political Report.
Read the whole NY Times article for more details.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Debate on Campaign Finance Law

I haven't watched this yet, but am putting it up as a place keeper for myself. (And I'm pretty sure it will be very interesting.)

Friday, August 13, 2010

Regulators' Decisions

There's no proof that this is what happened with Vivus' weight loss drug, but the way regulation is set up, it's certainly a possibility:
Is Arena Pharmaceuticals(ARNA) in danger of getting "Meridiacked"?

It's possible if this scenario sounds familiar: A panel of independent experts is brought to a suburban Washington, D.C. hotel meeting room by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and asked to decide whether or not to yank a controversial drug from the market because of safety data tying the drug to an increased risk of heart attack and strokes.

The next day, this same weary panel of experts -- reminded of what happens when unsafe or ineffective drugs receive FDA approval -- returns to the hotel meeting room and sits in judgment of a new weight-loss drug.

Vivus(VVUS) learned all too well that this setup can lead to a bad outcome. Last month, the company's experimental obesity drug Qnexa was chewed up and spit out by an FDA advisory panel that had spent the previous two days arguing over the heart safety of GlaxoSmithKline's(GSK) diabetes drug Avandia.

FDA officials must have a keen sense for the dramatic because they've set up a repeat of this scenario for September.

The same FDA advisory panel is reconvening Sept. 15 to hash out data that ties Abbott Lab's(ABT) currently marketed obesity drug Meridia to an increased risk of heart attacks and strokes. The following day, Sept. 16, the panel will review the efficacy and safety of Arena's experimental weight-loss drug lorcaserin.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

33% Surtax

This is a great article from the WSJ describing why it's so difficult for private enterprises to hire in today's political environment. Here's an excerpt, but be sure to read the whole thing:
When you add it all up, it costs $74,000 to put $44,000 in Sally's pocket and to give her $12,000 in benefits. Bottom line: Governments impose a 33% surtax on Sally's job each year.

Because my company has been conscripted by the government and forced to serve as a tax collector, we have lost control of a big chunk of our cost structure. Tax increases, whether cloaked as changes in unemployment or disability insurance, Medicare increases or in any other form can dramatically alter our financial situation. With government spending and deficits growing as fast as they have been, you know that more tax increases are coming—for my company, and even for Sally too.

Companies have also been pressed into serving as providers of health insurance. In a saner world, health insurance would be something that individuals buy for themselves and their families, just as they do with auto insurance. Now, adding to the insanity, there is ObamaCare.

Every year, we negotiate a renewal to our health coverage. This year, our provider demanded a 28% increase in premiums—for a lesser plan. This is in part a tax increase that the federal government has co-opted insurance providers to collect. We had never faced an increase anywhere near this large; in each of the last two years, the increase was under 10%.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Nomination Victory

Congratulations to Stephen Bailey and his supporters for winning the GOP nomination in Colorado's second district. Here's hoping he can unseat Polis.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Doritaenopsis Little Gem Strips


Saturday, August 07, 2010

The Benefits of Budget Shortfalls

Budget cuts are starting to force governments to get out of spheres they never should have been in in the first place. I think there's a lot we can do to keep the trend growing and to ground it in morality and rights, not just on temporary budget distress.

The NY Times reports on some of the cuts around the country:
Plenty of businesses and governments furloughed workers this year, but Hawaii went further — it furloughed its schoolchildren. Public schools across the state closed on 17 Fridays during the past school year to save money, giving students the shortest academic year in the nation and sending working parents scrambling to find care for them.

Many transit systems have cut service to make ends meet, but Clayton County, Ga., a suburb of Atlanta, decided to cut all the way, and shut down its entire public bus system. Its last buses ran on March 31, stranding 8,400 daily riders. ...

Friday, August 06, 2010

Crossfit Women

Some great shots of the women of the crossfit games.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Tocqueville Redux

"A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the majority discovers it can vote itself largess out of the public treasury." (often attributed to Tocqueville, though apparently it comes from Elmer Peterson)

In any case, the WSJ has a great story showing how Democrats are now trying to game the tax system so that residents in many states that voted for Obama will pay lower taxes than other US residents. The WSJ clearly sees through the arguments that these politicians make. Here are the closing paragraphs:
A big reason the cost of living is so high in Boston, Manhattan and San Francisco is because of high state and local taxes, union work rules, and heavy business regulation that make it more expensive to produce, sell and buy things.

Why should someone in Spokane or Knoxville or Topeka be penalized because New York and California impose destructive policies? Mr. Nadler also conveniently forgets that the federal tax code already subsidizes high-cost states through the deductibility of state and local income and property taxes.

An all-star line-up of liberal class warriors has nonetheless endorsed Mr. Nadler's effort to raise taxes on the rich everywhere but in their own districts. New York House Members Tim Bishop, Steve Israel, Nita Lowey, Carolyn Maloney and Carolyn McCarthy are cosponsors. Ms. Lowey, who has voted to tax anything that moves, now says that "When it comes to the tax code, one size just doesn't fit all" and laments that New York has "some of the highest property taxes in the country." But whose fault is that?

So welcome to the brave new world of "tax equity." If you live in a state that voted for Barack Obama, you get a tax cut.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Unknown Orchid

Highly fragrant mid-day


Monday, August 02, 2010

What is Your Back-Up Country?

Bill Frezza has a good and blistering take on the decline of America. (Though I don't think he gets to the root issues, as they pertain either to Rome or America. IMO Rome fell because of increased statism, America is dying due to the moral code it accepts.)

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Make Your "Top Idea" an Important One

Thanks to Gus Van Horn for posting a link to this article which does a good job of pointing out that we each have to be careful not to let the wrong ideas become our "top ideas". An excerpt:
I realized recently that what one thinks about in the shower in the morning is more important than I'd thought. I knew it was a good time to have ideas. Now I'd go further: now I'd say it's hard to do a really good job on anything you don't think about in the shower.

Everyone who's worked on difficult problems is probably familiar with the phenomenon of working hard to figure something out, failing, and then suddenly seeing the answer a bit later while doing something else. There's a kind of thinking you do without trying to. I'm increasingly convinced this type of thinking is not merely helpful in solving hard problems, but necessary. The tricky part is, you can only control it indirectly. [1]

I think most people have one top idea in their mind at any given time. That's the idea their thoughts will drift toward when they're allowed to drift freely. And this idea will thus tend to get all the benefit of that type of thinking, while others are starved of it. Which means it's a disaster to let the wrong idea become the top one in your mind.